Bari Weiss, Bill Maher Israel apologists

May 19, 2018



“Oh no not Bari Weiss” I groaned when I turned on Bill Maher’s show last night.


Yes there she was again a brazen apologist for Israel, given prime time to spout her inane and uninformed opinions.


A decade ago while a sophomore at Columbia, Weiss was part of an attack on Joseph Massad a professor in the Middle Eastern studies department.she hid her rabid Zionism behind a faux group called Columbians for Academic Freedom better known as These Arabs Should Shut up.




She and her cohorts didn’t get far with this one.


On April 6, 2005 a committee at Columbia University formed to investigate complaints that pro-Israel Jewish students were harassed by pro-Palestinian professors found “no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic.”


Now Weiss is an op-ed columnist for the New York Times apparently hired to add diversity. The noted investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald in a piece on the The Intercept summed up her one note samba this way:




Bari Weiss is a caricature of all of the op-ed page’s longest-standing, worst attributes. Her relatively short career as a writer and activist has been overwhelmingly devoted to one issue: a defense of the Israeli government and a corresponding smear campaign against its critics.

Her targets have tended overwhelmingly to be Muslim and/or Arab, often in the context of campus politics. She has already used her NYT space to endorse the disgusting and false Haim Saban-created smear campaign against the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, writing: “Recall that only a few months ago, Keith Ellison, a man with a long history of defending and working with anti-Semites, was almost made leader of the Democratic National Committee.”

Greenwald went on:


Hiring her didn’t add an iota of viewpoint diversity…her devotion to Israel is the North Star of Weiss’s worldview and journalism was best demonstrated by Weiss’s own description of her career. At a 2012 Conference of the American Zionist Movement, Weiss She explained that she “got involved in journalism through activism” — specifically, activism against Arab and Muslim professors at Columbia whom she accused of bullying Jewish and Israeli students.


Well, she and Maher whose mother is Jewish and has shown again and again his ignorance about Israel/Palestine, did not disappoint. The Daily Beast summed up their shameless performance

Bill Maher and Bari Weiss Cruelly Blame Palestinians for Gaza Massacre




Weiss then came up with this ahistorical howler about the  the Gazan march of return


They intentionally moved up the day so that it would coincide with the day of the embassy move so that we would all be disgusted and heartbroken when we saw this horrible split-screen of Ivanka Trump, looking like she was at a country club, next to poor, desperate people dying in Gaza.”


No understanding of history at all.


What Gazans wanted to show to the world was: Look on May 15th, this is 70 years since we were dispossessed of our land. International law insists we have the right of return.


The world has slowly digested this fact but Maher and Weiss are still mired in ignorance.


In early January Maher was firmly put in his place when on his show Michelle Goldberg a new York Times columnist who actually took time to find out what the hell was happening in Palestine and then didtched her Zionism, told him he was full of crap in no unbcertain terms:


Come on. You should go and see what’s happening in the West Bank. If you look at the settlements, if you look at the facts on the ground. The fact that you have instead of a contiguous land mass you increasingly have these little cantons. And if you look at the way that Palestinians — most Palestinians alive today were not born during any of these wars and so the idea that their lives should be blighted because of them. Look at what Americans have to do when they go through a TSA checkpoint. They completely lose their shit. And if you imagine doing that for two hours every single day …”


Bari Weiss, always welcome…Glenn Greenwald and Michelle Goldberg, not so much.



Acknowledging Israel’s original Sin

May 18, 2018

In true professorial mode,clear and concise, the great Israeli historian Ilan Pappé now teaching in England relfects on the centrality of the Nakba and Israel’s brutal ethnic cleansing of a Palestinian homeland and its failure to acknowledge this event.




It has taken the world 70 years to catch up to this massive injustice but the day of reckoning is at hand. Will Israel do the right thing, admit its “original sin” and begin to creat a true democracy or continue to deny the undeniable. Here is Pappé’s reflection.

On Monda May 14 the Trump administration broke with more than 70 years of official US policy and the position of the international community by moving its embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As if to rub salt in their wounds, it was be inaugurated the day before Palestinians commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (the Catastrophe), when nearly a million Palestinians were displaced and became refugees during Israel’s establishment. In Israel, the Nakba is not only ignored, it is outright denied or even justified. Yet if there is to be peace in this region – and I think it is possible – it begins with acknowledging the Nakba, understanding it, and working to reverse it.


Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, which saw the transformation of half of Palestine’s population into stateless refugees, is not a mere historic event: it has persisted unabated until today.  Since 1967, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were either expelled from or denied re-entry when they traveled outside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, inside Israel’s recognized borders, its policy of “Judaizing” the south and north of the country often result in a quiet transfer of Palestinians through expropriation of land and demolition of villages, as is occurring in Umm al-Hiran today, where an entire Palestinian community is being destroyed so a town for Jewish Israelis can be built in its place.


Today more than six million Palestinians are homeless due to the 1948 Nakba and its subsequent chapters. Failing to acknowledge their rights will not only lead to continued instability in the region but also prevents any lasting peace. By recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Trump is encouraging Israel to accelerate its dispossession of Palestinians in the city and elsewhere.

Only by revisiting the events of 1948 can one understand the essence of the conflict in Israel and Palestine, as well as the reasons for the failure to solve it. Even if there are still today, despite the clear archival evidence, people who refuse to acknowledge Israel’s responsibility for the catastrophe – the demolition of half of Palestine’s towns and villages and the exodus of 750,000 people – no one denies that the refugees were not allowed to return (in clear violation of the UN decisions and the international law).

The reasons for the expulsion and for the refusal to allow repatriation are the same. From the very onset of the Zionist project in Palestine, the main obstacle for the establishment of the Jewish state was the native population of Palestine. This still remains the problem for Israelis who regard themselves as Zionists, whether they are liberals, socialists or nationalists. The various political groups in Israel differ on the tactics of how to overcome the demographic reality of an Arab Palestinian country. They nonetheless concur on viewing the native Palestinians as a demographic existential threat simply because they are not Jewish.

The Palestinian leadership since the 1980s was willing to compromise on the territorial configuration of Israel, but could never, and will never, lend its consent to the overall Judaization of its homeland. Israeli laws that forbid Palestinians in Israel from commemorating the Nakba, Israeli demands that the Palestinians agree to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State,” – despite the fact that more than 20% of its population is Palestinian – are an insult added to an injury.  Israel is an established fact, but so are the circumstances of its establishment on the ruins of Palestine. For Palestinians territorial compromise does not include a license for a global amnesia or the acceptance of Israeli historical fabrications.


MAY 15

Young palestinians striking pair of messages:  a solution for Palestine has to include all Palestinians and cover all historical Palestine, and it has to rectify the worst consequence of the Nakba by implementing the Right of Return.


American peacemakers, whether cynical or genuine in their efforts, have consistently failed to understand the essence of the conflict in Palestine. If they ever want to solve it, they need to revisit the dispossession of Palestinians that occurred in 1948 and understand its significance and the fact that 70 years later, Israel continues to systematically displace Palestinians from their homes.



With the collapse of the two-state solution, addressing the Nakba and events of 1948 should become the focus of a peace agenda. This is the original sin of the conflict in Israel/Palestine and it must be dealt with in an honest and just manner if we are ever to move forward.

And we should let this young generation lead us on that path. For them, rectifying what happened in 1948 and subsequently is an issue of human and civil rights and not of retribution, and their vision of the future is of a place where normal human life can be resumed, where it was denied for the last seventy years.

Catonsville 50 years Ago Today

May 17, 2018

50 Years Ago Today: Catonsville 9 Burned Draft Papers with Homemade Napalm to Protest Vietnam War




Fifty years ago today, on May 17, 1968, in the Baltimore suburb of Catonsville, Maryland, a group of Catholic priests and laypeople stood around a small fire that they had made, praying and singing. They had gone into the local draft board office and taken 378 draft records for the young men in the 1-A category, who were most likely to get drafted to go to war in Vietnam. They set fire to the draft records using homemade napalm, made from gasoline and laundry soap, to symbolize the U.S. military’s use of napalm on Vietnamese civilians. They became known as the Catonsville Nine. Video of the act of civil disobedience was seen around the world. Democracy Now  turns to the 2012 documentary Hit & Stay, which chronicles  the stories of the activists, including Fathers Phil and Dan Berrigan.


FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN: We make our prayer in the name of that God whose name is peace and decency and unity and love. We unite in taking our matches, approaching the fire. We’re all part of this.




GEORGE MISCHE: While people throughout the world, and especially Vietnam now, are suffering from napalm, that these files are also napalmed, to show that these lives can fall on the same fate as the Vietnamese.





DAVID DARST: Napalm, which was made from information and from a formula in the United States Special Forces handbook published by the School of Special Warfare of the United States. We all had a hand in making the napalm that was used here today.

JIM HARNEY: Napalm is a very old weapon. It goes back to the Byzantines. But it really came to public attention during the war in Vietnam, in the pictures of napalmed people. So that was the kind of quintessential symbol of the war: We were burning babies, literally, in Vietnam. So that’s why we wanted to come up with something symbolic and also something that would really destroy the files.


TOM MELVILLE: Our church has failed to act officially, and we feel that, as individuals, we’re going to have to speak out in the name of Catholicism and Christianity. And we hope our action to inspire other people who have Christian principles or a faith similar to Christianity will act accordingly, too, to stop the terrible destruction that America is wreaking on the whole world.


FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN: We regret very much, I think all of us, the inconvenience and even the suffering that we’ve brought to these clerks here.



FATHER PHIL BERRIGAN: We sincerely hope we didn’t injure anyone.


PRIESTS: Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.


FATHER DANIEL BERRIGAN: We have chosen to be powerless criminals in a time of criminal power. We have chosen to be branded as peace criminals by war criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: The Catonsville Nine were prosecuted and, in 1970, given prison sentences of up to three years behind bars. Earlier this month, a ceremony was held in Catonsville, Maryland, to mark the unveiling of a new historical marker to commemorate the action.




Frida Berigan daughter of Phil and liz McAlister with children

Gaza fence that separates the brave from the cowardly

May 16, 2018



Israel for all its blindness and racism permits Haaretz to publish—and ignore. This fine newspaper read by 4% of Israelis employs two outstanding Israeli journalists committed to truth-telling, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.


Levy 30amira


In Canada we never see their articles featured probably because newspapers are on life support and fear the Israel-firsters threat of a boycott. the same can be said of political parties though the NDP finally rid of the pro-Zionist Mulcair has shown some courage of late.


Here in the article below Amira Hass, the daughter of a survivor of Bergen-Belsen pours scorn on the leadership of her country. Also for the first time in my reading, she points out that Israel’s economy is “a startup nation of manufacturers and profiteers and exporters of weapons” as well as a global trainer of police forces penning up of humans.


As Amnesty International reports, Baltimore law enforcement officials, along with hundreds of others from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington state as well as the DC Capitol police have all traveled to Israel for training. Thousands of others have received training from Israeli officials here in the U.S.




Alex Vitale an expert on policing at Brooklyn College points out:


The focus of this training is on riot suppression, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism — all of which are essentially irrelevant or should be irrelevant to the vast majority of police departments,” he added. “They shouldn’t be suppressing protest, they shouldn’t be engaging in counterinsurgency, and almost none of them face any real threat from terrorism.”


The end result of this training according to David Friedman of the Anti Defamation League is “they come back Zionists.”
Amira Hass

In the Gaza Strip the border fence separates the brave from the cowardly. It separates those armed with empty hands, kites and burning tires from a military power and its soldiers. It separates detainees serving a life sentence from their wardens.


Fence 2


The desperate courage demonstrated by tens of thousands of citizens of Gaza over the past few weeks in general and on Monday in particular hints at the energies, the talents, the dreams, the creativity and the vitality of the inhabitants of this strip of land — who has been subjected to a 27-year policy of closure and siege aimed at suffocating and crushing them. That policy has not been a total success, but it’s proved successful enough that so many people are willing to commit suicide with open eyes. In their death they are bequeathing to their friends and families the hope that someone there, in the world beyond the fences, will become alarmed and will finally understand.


Pi=Not defense


The arrogant cowardice demonstrated by the well-protected soldiers and commanders – when I began writing these lines on Monday they had already taken the lives of 18 human beings – is Israel’s real calling card. Because what is cowardice if not the decision to kill masses of unarmed detainees who are demonstrating against their prolonged imprisonment?


Gaza cas

Journalists report that four of those killed by Israeli fire are commanders in the Palestinian security lookout posts. In that case, every Israeli soldier in every one of the hundreds of lookout posts in the West Bank and around the Gaza Strip should also be doomed…


At the moment of writing these lines the number of Palestinian dead has already reached 37, including two minors. How many soldiers were required to kill dozens and to wound hundreds with live fire?

PI=Gaza copy 2
Despite the clear Israeli warnings, and the signals that the army intended to kill and wound indiscriminately, tens of thousands of residents of the Strip attended the demonstration. They did so even though they knew that the hospitals in the Gaza Strip are incapable of treating the hundreds and perhaps thousands of additional wounded, and that more than ever, the snipers’ bullets wound and destroy tissue and bones and muscles to the point of permanent disability. This is a desperate demonstration of courage, addressed to the nations of the world and to Europe in particular, which to their shame enabled Israel, which they consider democratic, to turn the Palestinian enclave into this terrible prison facility.



Despite the pleas of Israeli and international human rights organizations and of this newspaper that the IDF desist from the policy of slaughtering the demonstrators, despite their warnings that shooting unarmed civilians contradicts international law and will only add fuel to the fire — the army did as it pleased. Under the command of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, the IDF lawyers always say that we are the supreme interpreters of international law, because after all, U.S. President Donald Trump is on our side.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Lieberman and Eisenkot gave the orders, and the commanders and soldiers are only obeying them. But in that sense we’re a democracy: Behind Netanyahu, Lieberman and Eisenkot stands most of the Jewish Israeli public, which gives them its full support. No fact and no demonstration will convince that majority that those who are jailed without trial are rebelling against their imprisonment. The warden is asserting his supremacy.




In that sense we are also a startup nation of manufacturers and profiteers and exporters of weapons, who make a living from the availability of the human laboratories on which we constantly test and develop our profitable and popular products for killing. And now, on Tuesday evening, we reach the last line and the number of dead is 61.


Trump’s bizarre pastors

May 15, 2018


Here they are insults to Christianity, purveyors of hate and stupidity

Step up Robert Jeffress, introduced to radio by Amy Goodman




An anti-gay, pro-Trump pastor of the First Baptist megachurch in Dallas, Pastor Robert Jeffress, was chosen by the Trump administration to lead the prayer at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Pastor Jeffress has a history of making hateful comments against Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Mormons, the LGBTQ community. This is just a few of the statements he’s made over the years.


DONALD TRUMP: Where is Pastor Jeffress? He’s around here someplace. What a good guy! Where is he? Well, come here. I love this guy!


PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Here’s the deep, dark, dirty secret of Islam. It is a religion that promotes pedophilia, sex with children. … Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.


ANDERSON COOPER: Hindus and Buddhists, Islam—cults?

PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Yes, absolutely. … Muhammad was nothing but a bloodthirsty warlord who beheaded 600 Jews who would not follow him into battle.


IMAM MOHAMMAD ALI ELAHI: That is not true.


PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Islam is wrong! It is a heresy from the pit of hell. Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell. Judaism, you know, you can’t be saved, being a Jew and Catholicism represents the genius of Satan


and Obama?


In 2014, Jeffress wrote a book arguing that Obama was paving the way for the coming of the Antichrist, if not the Antichrist himself. He’s cast Trump as a kind of modern-day King Cyrus: chosen by God as an unlikely leader.


and John Hagee, a bizarre end timer who believe that the Jewish people are going to burn in Hell for all of eternity unless they abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity. This guy is to serious theology as Popeye is to Plato. You simply can not believe the nonsense he promotes like the Blood Moon Prophecy, an end-of-times theory that lunar eclipses are a sign that the world is on the brink of destruction and that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is near.


To have these two “Christians” present at the unveiling of an embassy is to both invite ridicule and debase Christianity.

The death toll in Gaza is rising

May 14, 2018

Today is unfolding as a horrifying and tragic day in Palestine. The Israeli military has opened fire on Gaza protesters as the U.S. and Israeli governments prepare to mark the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Today has been the deadliest day in Gaza since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.


filess from JVP and MondoweissGA 140518_MJ_00-55-580x372


According to the Gaza Ministry of Health (as of 14:30 GMT):
◦ 43 killed, including 5 minors and 1 paramedic
◦ 1,960 injured – including 200 minors, 11 journalists
◦ 28 in critical condition and 71 in serious condition
◦ 918 shot by Israeli soldiers using live Israeli ammunition.

Meanwhile the US Embassy officially opened in Jerusalem: a cynical, dangerous celebration of annexation.
This is the Nakba (“catastrophe”) happening before our very eyes. All of it – the Embassy move; the very fact that 2 million people in Gaza, mostly refugees, live in essentially unlivable conditions; the sniper attacks on unarmed demonstrators and journalists.
It’s not just a 70th year anniversary: Palestinian human rights are being trampled at this very moment. Palestinians are being killed for defending those rights, as we speak.
It took a visiting New York Times reporter from Cairo to finally tell some truths about Israel’s ongoing massacre of Palestinian demonstrators inside Gaza. Meanwhile, the paper’s Israel correspondents continue to distort and whitewash.


PI Whitewash


Declan Walsh came over from Egypt into Gaza ahead of today’s massive demonstrations, expecting “an uneventful evening” on Saturday. Instead, distant Israeli snipers, “barely visible in their fortified perches,” opened fire at a group of Palestinian women right in front of him, and then shot again, hitting one of them, Alaa Asawafiri, in the stomach. Her brother told Walsh: “She wasn’t holding a stone. So what’s the excuse for shooting her?” Walsh checked with the Israeli army mouthpiece, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus: “In a text message he said he could not find any trace of the shooting.”


Multiply Declan Walsh’s eyewitness account by 42 and you have the death toll so far today, with another astounding 2,000 wounded. Once again, not a single Israeli has suffered as much as a scratch.


Let our government know that this  is totally unacceptable




Nakba remembered in Toronto

May 13, 2018

On Tuesday, May 15, Palestinians will be mourning the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe that befell them in 1948 when upwards of 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcefully displaced from what became the state of Israel.




On Saturday May 12 a spirited rally was held commemorating this massive act of depopulation essentially ignored by the world. This was the price Palestinians paid for European complicity in the Nazi holocaust.


For decades silence reigned but as time went by and as Israel’s historical justifications for making an innocent people pay for a tragedy it had nothing to do with, the world began to wake from its slumber. 70 years later Israel has become a pariah nation for its ongoing illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its cynical unending cruelty to a people under occupation.


In a famous Palestinian novel the Secret Life of Saeed the Peptoptimist by Emile Habibi, the hero the peptoptimist watches as the Israeli governor drives a woman and her child from a a field she is working on. As the woman and the child leave they seemed to grow taller and the governor asks “Will they never disappear?”




The answer plainly is no. The Palestinian steadfastness, their principled resistance to this massive injustice has grown and been magnified. The unveiling of historical truth and the omnipresence of communication technology has amplified the truth and laid bare the lies of the state of Israel.




Saturday enthusiastic Palestinian youth led chants, waved flags and placards attesting to the above facts.They then marched south to the american embassy. Across the road in front of the Israeli consulate Israeli supporters in smaller numbers waved their flags and chanted back. The word refrain coming from this side was “Never again”, a message that Israeli supporters have indeed forgotten. The message of the Nazi holocaust is precisely that: never again to anybody.


INet Karta 18MG_1205

Always present at these rallies are the Neturei Karta (“Guardians of their City”) ultra-orthodox Jews United Against Zionism They drive Israel firsters around the bend with their rejection of the unjust occupation.They see land thievery and oppression and very un-Jewish.


On the very fringe — and there are always fringers–of the Nakba side was Mr Conspiracy. He had a tee shirt  emblazoned with “911 was a zionist job.”He  was ignored by everybody.


Nakba Day


On the pro=-Israeli side there were several ordinary citizens, very sincere tribalists with Israeli flags but not much knowledge of what is really transpiring in Israel/Palestine, there were a few members of the Jewish Defense League. One told me that those on the other side “wanted to kill Jews and impose sharia law.” He added that he was not Jewish but his wife was and if “they’ come for her they will have to go through me.”


Slouching against a building outside the Israeli embassy I spied four members of the Soldiers of Odin quietly chatting and laughing I asked them what they stood for.”We’re against Islam.”




There was a heavy police presence on this beautiful spring day as democracy unfolded. As usual none of the major dailies showed up.


ALL out for NAKBA

May 12, 2018


Some of the great work of the Independent Jewish Voices
Dear friends,

On Tuesday, May 15, Palestinians will be mourning the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe that befell them in 1948 when upwards of 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forcefully displaced from what became the state of Israel.

Click here to watch a recording of our webinar on Canadians in 1948 Palestine.

As Jews and other people of conscience, we must face this dark history and mourn with them.

Together we mourn not only those who were killed in 1948. We mourn the loss of their ancestral lands and the destruction of Palestinian cities, villages and society.

At the same time we celebrate the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, the sumud of those who live under military occupation, blockade, exile, in refugee camps and as third class citizens.

Please donate to help IJV continue its work in solidarity with Palestinians.

Poster for Nakba march and benefit night in Montreal

We refuse to stand by idly while unarmed protesters are shot, while Palestinian villages are demolished and while Trump lends credence to Israel’s claim over all of Jerusalem.

Over the next few days and weeks, IJV chapters and individual members will be participating in demonstrations and other events across the country to mark #Nakba70. Below is a shortlist of events that IJV chapters have endorsed, are co-organizing, and/or are speaking at. My sincere apologies in advance if there are any events that are missing.

Rally for Gaza and Commemorating 70 Years of Nakba
Saturday, May 12, 1:30-3pm
180 Bloor St. W


Hard Labor and the Mad Russian

May 11, 2018



In the Moment
The whistle blows
and I am caught
between curbing my anger
or hitting the player
who just fouled me.
Oh, what the hell, I say.

or this one

If only I’d known
I didn’t have to throw that elbow
at LaRusso or stalk Chet Walker
to his locker room, spoiling for a
fight or take a swing at Wilt,
while my breathless teammates
feared for my life.
All I had to do was breathe
my way out of anger.
Lungs instead of fists.


Sam Smith’s Hard Labor is a great respite from the hard analyses and serious tomes which fill my life. We all need a breather from discerning the warp and woof of history and if you once were a basketball coach, this book is quite engaging, jam packed with the stuff of life.




At one level, the idea of even caring about privileged NBA players having hard labor is ridiculous. For example, Kyle Lowry of the Raptors makes $28 million per year. Grossly overpaid for sure. Lowry seems like a decent guy but his salary in a suffering world is an insult to creation, a good example of what’s wrong with capitalism. Half of humanity lives on a toonie a day so why should we give a damn about NBA players? Good question.


As Lewis Mumford wrote in 1934 “Sport is one of the least effective reactions against the machine. ”It is just part of the spectacle which diverts our attention from the serious matters at hand. Give it a glance and move on.




But the book Hard Labor is about a different time when mostly black players were treated like they were still on the plantation. In 1964 most had second jobs. Smith lays all of this out in compelling terms. Jim Crow was still alive when Oscar Robertson and friends challenged the owners to treat them as more than chattels.


This was the generation of players which paved the way for the mega salaries of today. As Robertson says in the book,”Most of today’s players don’t give a shit” about the trail blazers. Amnesia goes with capitalism.




One nugget among many in this book is the fact that Shaquille O’Neal paid for the funeral of George Mikan, the first great NBA big man.


I liked this book because, like the incomparable Dave Zirin who writes about the politics of sport for The Nation magazine, Smith places sport within the broader confines of society and politics. Few sports writers today are worth reading at all simply because they treat the topic as stand alone and worthy of our time. It isn’t. check out Zirin’s latest Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down (The New Press.)


Back to Hard Labor.


The most interesting story was about a journeyman player named Tom Meschery, the author of the poems above. Smith calls him the Mad Russian warrior poet, a good handle and a fascinating story.




Meschery was born in Manchuria as Tomislav Nicolaivich Mescherakov. His father, a Russian officer fought with the Bolsheviks in the revolution. His mother was related to Tolstoy’s second cousin the family finally got a visa to the US in 1938 the year Tom was born.They never got there and were interned in a Japanese internment camp where young Tommy learned English from missionaries.


After the war they landed in San Francisco and Tom had to fight his way to school and in the playground because his mother dressed him in knickers. He quickly learned two things—how to fight and sport was the great equalizer. Meschery went on to be a two-time All-American at St. Mary’s College, 20 miles east of Frisco where he was taught by the Christian Brothers and later incarnated the school’s motto ‘enter to learn, leave to serve.’ In 1961 he was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Warriors and enjoyed a 10 year career averaging 12,7 points and 8.6 rebounds.  He generally led the league in fouls and brawls hence his nickname the Mad Russian.The other side of this was he was loved by his teammates as a gentle warrior the lost and lonely.


I had a temper, I admit,” he says. “And I wasn’t about to back down. And maybe that was sort of the immigrant in me, come to think of it. You know, I had to put up my dukes a lot when I was young. So I think I had a little bit of a short fuse.”



When his time in the show was up, the insatiably curious multi-linguist met the American poet laureate of 1991 Mark Strand who suggested “he retreat to a life of poetry and contemplation full time.”


After running a bookstore into the ground he discovered teaching in Reno and Truckee ,Nevada. With his degree from the Iowa Writers Workshop he had found a new home, writing poetry and teaching and ranting on his blog about Donald Trump (http:/

Working Man

I admit sleeping in late at the Hilton,

ordering room service, handing out

big tips while your kind of men

were opening their lunch buckets.

You would have scolded me:

“Что это за работа для человека?”

“What kind of work is this for a man?”

Old immigrant, I admit all of this

too late. You died before I could explain

sportswriters call me a journeyman.

They write I roll up my sleeves

and go to work. They use words

like hammer and muscle to describe me.

For three straight years on the job

my nose collapsed. My knees ached

and I could never talk myself out of less

than two injuries at a time. Father,

you would have been proud of me:

I labored in the company of large men.


In the end Hard Labor is a serious attempt at contextualizing pro sport in our turbocapitalist world.


Joel Kovel: Overcoming Zionism pt.1

May 9, 2018



The writer Joel Kovel died on April 30. The New York Times thought so much of this scholar that last week they honoured him with a huge obituary. This was a guy you’d liked to have known

Sam Robert’s obit begins
Joel Kovel, a former Freudian psychiatrist who evolved into an apostle of what he called ecosocialism, a so-called green-and-red agenda against the environmental evils of globalization and in favor of the nonviolent eradication of capitalism, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 81.
Kovel was a spiritual quester his whole life.this was obvious in his 1991 book History and Spirit: An Inquiry into the Philosophy of Liberation. At the end of his life Kovel was baptized Anglican.




Roberts totally glides over Kovel’s brilliant evisceration of Zionism Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine (London and Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2007).In 2011 this review appeared the Journal of the Research Group on Socialism and Democracy.


Joel Kovel has given us an impressive and important book. Its first printing sold out without a single review, major or otherwise. Nevertheless word of this extraordinary work is spreading. The taboo in the United States (not Israel) against seriously discussing and criticizing Zionist Israel has been broken with the publication of Jimmy Carter’s bold book labeling the situation in the Occupied Territories “apartheid” and with the exposure by prestigious professors Mearsheimer and Walt -– in the London Review of Books after rejection by the Atlantic Monthly –- of the power of the Israeli lobby. Kovel, by focusing squarely on how to “overcome” Zionism, takes the discussion exactly where it needs to go from there. He writes beautifully, even poetically, not just on Zionism’s sordid history, but on its ideology, its ethics, and even on the terrible ecological devastation in Israel itself, where every river is polluted, some to lethal levels. And he writes with courage and hope.




Kovel “a jew from Brooklyn” believes that the creation of Israel in 1948, as a colony of settlers who established an exclusively Jewish and discriminatory state, has created a multi-faceted disaster -– “a dreadful mistake” -– that should be undone, with Israel de-Zionized and integrated into the Middle East. His solution is stated in the book’s subtitle and restated in the title of the last chapter: “Palesrael: A Secular and Universal Democracy for Israel/Palestine.” This is an elegant solution, and he lays out an action program to accomplish it.


Kovel writes that the ethical reference point for Jews is the tribal unit. Since ancient times they set themselves off as “a people apart,” chosen by Jehovah, with whom they have a covenant. In Kovel’s view, “Zionism’s dynamic was drawn from the most tribal and particularistic stratum of Judaism, and its destiny became the restoration of tribalism in the guise of a modern, highly militarized and aggressive state,” which they implanted in the center if Islam. Herein lies the tragedy.


At the turn of the 20th century, a Zionist conference in Vienna delegated several rabbis to travel to Palestine on a fact-finding mission. The rabbis cabled back, “the bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.” Kovel writes incisively of what ensued. The “tremendous struggle” to dislodge Palestine’s inhabitants would involve three great difficulties:

the resistance of those who stood in the way and would have to be displaced; the exigencies of geo-politics; and one’s own inner being, which would have to be retooled from the self-image of an ethical victim to that of a ruthless conqueror. All of these obstacles could be dealt with by signing onto Western imperialism and capitalism.

Jewish suffering and persecution became justification for aggression in asserting the “outlandish claim to a territory controlled 2500 years ago by one’s putative ancestors.”




The Israelis took 78% of the territory in l948 and the remaining 22% in l967. The logic of Zionism –- to create an ethnically pure Jewish state -– led to organized terrorism; “the essentials had been put in place by the mid-1930s” and the opportunity came in l948. The leaders of Zionism, Chaim Arlosoroff, Vladimir Jabotinsky, and especially David Ben Gurion, quietly articulated the need to drive the Arabs out.


South African Prime Minister Henrik Verwoerd said in l96l something the liberals wouldn’t: “that the Zionists “took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. In that, I agree with them, Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”




When the smoke lifted in l948, 531 Arab villages had been destroyed, some 750,000 Palestinians driven out. In l948 Menachem Begin (later Prime Minister of Israel) organized the dynamiting of the British headquarters in Jerusalem, killing 88 persons, including 15 Jews. That year also saw the terrorizing of the village of Deir Yassin. With Begin in command, Yitzhak Shamir -– who was also to become a PM and whose frankly fascist organization the Stern Gang had actually made overtures to the Nazis to create a Jewish state along totalitarian lines -–were part in the operation. The terror at Deir Yassin was a decisive factor in the Arab exodus. The ethnic cleansing had been clearly planned by the Zionist leadership, as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has documented. Thus the Zionists established Israel with a crime against humanity.